Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Sunday Salon and Read Me a Story... 4 Short Story Collections You Need to Read NOW!



Welcome to The Sunday Salonwhere bloggers from all over the world talk about all things bookish is a virtual library! And The Sunday Post, which is a weekly meme hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer, in which more bloggers share their bookish news! It's that day of the week we chat about books! So find yourself a comfy chair, grab a cup of joe and let's talk... Stories! Yes, sometimes the short story collection gets the short end of the reading pile, doesn't it? But why?! Didn't we all like bedtime stories when we were children?! Stories short enough to be fulfilling and yet easily read in a limited about of time? I generally don't read short stories, and I think it's because if the story is really good, I want more, and if it's not good, I feel like I wasted my time, and do I really want to continue with the rest of the stories in a collection after that? I really enjoyed  You're Not Lost if You Can Still See the Truck by Bill Heavey, but these were more like essays, I guess because these "stories" were not fiction. And if I think about it, I do enjoy reading stories in The New Yorker and other publications. But... I've heard about so many great short story collections in the past month, that I am willing to give it my all and try some. The first three lady writers here are new to me, but I've had Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird on my TBR list for a while. All of them have gotten rave reviews for these short story collections! Here we go...

Honeydew by Edith Pearlman...Over the past several decades, Edith Pearlman has staked her claim as one of the all-time great practitioners of the short story. Her incomparable vision, consummate skill, and bighearted spirit have earned her consistent comparisons to Anton Chekhov, John Updike, Alice Munro, Grace Paley, and Frank O'Connor. Her latest work, gathered in this stunning collection of twenty new stories, is an occasion for celebration. Pearlman writes with warmth about the predicaments of being human. The title story involves an affair, an illegitimate pregnancy, anorexia, and adolescent drug use, but the true excitement comes from the evocation of the interior lives of young Emily Knapp, who wishes she were a bug, and her inner circle. "The Golden Swan" transports the reader to a cruise ship with lavish buffets-and a surprise stowaway-while the lead story, "Tenderfoot," follows a widowed pedicurist searching for love with a new customer anguishing over his own buried trauma. Whether the characters we encounter are a special child with pentachromatic vision, a group of displaced Somali women adjusting to life in suburban Boston, or a staid professor of Latin unsettled by a random invitation to lecture on the mystery of life and death, Pearlman knows each of them intimately and reveals them to us with unsurpassed generosity. In prose as knowing as it is poetic, Pearlman shines a light on small, devastatingly precise moments to reflect the beauty and grace found in everyday life.These stories are a crowning achievement for a brilliant career and demonstrate once more that Pearlman is a master of the form whose vision is unfailingly wise and forgiving.

Edith Pearlman has won 3 O. Henry Awards, a Pen/Faulkner Award and numerous other literary honors, and yet she is not very well known. Her last short story collection, Binocular Vision, helped put her name out there, but she still remains a bit obscure. I definitely want to read Honeydew and have it on my TBR list now. I actually checked to see if my library carried it, and they did... EXCEPT, whoever checked it out NEVER returned it and it's been 3 months. Does this mean that it was THAT good?! In any case, here is a great piece from The New Yorker about Pearlman and her writing. And follow this link to Little, Brown and company to read Tenderfoot, one of the short stories in Honeydew! 


A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin... A MANUAL FOR CLEANING WOMEN compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the Laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they'd ever overlooked her in the first place.

This is suppose to be a more "grittier" collection of stories, but fantastic none the less. Thesis on my TBR pile as well. You can learn more about Lucia Berlin at her website. Lot's of great insight there! Here is a link to Vice Media, where you can read the short story, Friends, which is from A Manual For Cleaning Women. 


American Housewife by Helen Ellis... A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line. Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it's cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it's a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh, and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood.

This collection of short stories is more light-hearted and filled with a bit of wry humor. It's a slim book of 185 pages, which I know because I just checked this out of my library. I've been reading these stories for the last few days and have for the most part really enjoyed them! They are funny and have a wonderful tongue in cheek way about them. They are contemporary in nature too.  I'll be reviewing this collection next week though, so come back to hear the full scoop. And I know size doesn't matter (right?!), but I love those small gift size books and that's what this is. I could not find a sample of any of the stories, but here is an interesting interview of Helen Ellis by Elle magazine. 

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi... Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. “‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” involves a “house of locks,” where doors can be closed only with a key—with surprising, unobservable developments. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don't You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).  Oyeyemi’s tales span multiple times and landscapes as they tease boundaries between coexisting realities. Is a key a gate, a gift, or an invitation?

These stories sound fascinating to me. I definitely plan on reading this and can't wait to see how keys literally fit into all these stories! There is an interesting piece written on Helen Oyeyemi by Annalisa Quinn for NPR online, and HERE is the link.

Weekly Update... 
This week we started off with Memoir Monday and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, who wrote his memoir after being diagnosed with lung cancer and having to switch roles from Doctor to patient. I also put up a video of Paul talking about his diagnosis and his decision to have a child with his wife even though his prognosis was not good. Very heartbreaking. Click on Memoir Monday above to read the post and watch the video.

Tuesday we talked briefly about the NEW Beatrix Potter book coming out! A long lost manuscript of her children's book The Tale of Kitty in Boots will be published this fall for Beatrix's 150th birthday! Here is the link for, Did Ya Hear About... 

First Lines Friday (yes, on friday) brought us to Kenya and the first lines of Paula Mclain's book, Circling the SunWould YOU keep reading after those first lines? Click on the First Lines Friday link above to read them if you haven't.

Two reviews went up this week too! First on friday, Beat, Slay, Love by Thalia Filbert is a culinary who dun it, with serious complications for the TV Chefs involved. Click on the link to see if it tasted good to me! And saturday I brought you Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. A wonderful children's picture book with a grumpy bear and 4 baby goslings, who were suppose to be hard boiled, but became hard to turn away! Click on Mother Bruce to read my review.
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So, what do YOU think about short stories and short story collections? I guess the short story collection is alive and well. It's a great way to sample a writer without investing in a full length novel (that is if they have one yet) and you do see many writers come back to the short story after writing novels. It's also a great way to read a little bit before nodding off to sleep... like a bedtime story (for adults!) Hope you've found something interesting to read here today! And please share any short story collections you have enjoyed! (And since I'm reading American Housewife, I will be able to cross off one more square on my Book Bingo card! The "A Poetry or Short Story Collection". That's 6 squares picked off already! Are you playing Book Bingo? How many squares have you completed?!)

Happy reading... Suzanne

P.S. To celebrate the release of Stephen King's recent short story collection (Bazaar of Bad Dreams) King's publisher and the Guardian hosted a short story competition in which 800 short stories were submitted! After the stories were short listed to 6, Stephen King picked Elodie Harper as winner with Wild Swimming. (Click on Wild Swimming to read the story!) And if you're up for creepy, last year Nicholas Cage came out with a horror movie called Pay the Ghost, about a missing child that had supernatural reasons. That movie was based on a short story by Tim Lebbon called Pay the Ghost and is available for Kindle for .99cents. Here's the link for the Kindle Book if you're interested. 





Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins... A Review!

I've been meaning to read this book for a while. I loved the premise of a bear who accidentally becomes mother to some baby goslings. I am so glad I finally opened the book and took it all in! It is hilarious! Especially the bear looking up fancy recipes on the internet!

So, here's the gist... Bruce is a grump. He dislikes everything... EXCEPT eggs! He loves eggs and gets eggs anywhere and anytime he can. One day as he is trying to hard boil his eggs, the eggs hatch instead of hard boil. They turn out to be goslings and they decide he's their mother. Bruce, remember he's a grump, isn't happy and tries all sorts of ways to get rid of them, but they won't have any of it and begrudgingly Bruce ends up raising them. When they are old enough, he thinks he's going to get them to fly south like all the other geese in the sky, but they have something else in mind. I won't give it away, but the ending is perfect.

Beautifully illustrated, humorous, and a wonderful story, Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is a winner! I give it 5 stars!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Beat, Slay, Love by Thalia Filbert... A Review

Ever watch one of those chef competitions on TV? Hells Kitchen? Master chef Junior? Top Chef? Ever wonder what happens to the losers of those competitions? Do they all lose gracefully? Not on your life, or on the lives of those demeaning celebrity judges! Meet Hannah, whose humiliating 30 minutes on 86ed, the chef competition show she had waited all her life to winhave been relived over and over again in her mind and on multiple media outlets. But that wasn't the only revenge she was looking for...

Beat, Slay, Love is the delectable murder mystery by Thalia Filbert (who in reality are writers Taffy Cannon, Kate Flora, Lisa McClendon, Katy Munger and Gary Phillips, who all got together to have some fun writing) It's all about Hannah White, daughter of a infamous chef and whose culinary education left her with a long list of recipes and chefs that needed to learn a thing or two about humility. Her plan includes a cross country tour of food fests, sharp knives and revenge. Along the way we learn about food, poison, kinky sex, sabotage, and tv kitchens.

And as celebrity chefs start meeting their ends in spectacular ways, the FBI gets involved as well as a food blogger, whose behind the scenes knowledge of food and chefs helps the FBI lead the charge against violence in the kitchen.

What did I think? For the most part, I thought this was a fun, light-hearted murder mystery, that I loved more so because, yes, I have been addicted to watching those kitchen cook-offs. Hannah was a great character, who you could actually feel sorry for because the chefs in question were such conceited jerks, and nobody deserves to be humiliated the way she was. But murder is going a bit too far and the story built up bigger and bigger until you learned Hannah's biggest humiliation of all and what she was going to do about it. Though you knew who the killer was right from the start, her plans and adventures along the way, are what make the story fun. All done with a bit of tongue in cheek, as the chefs are exaggerated to the max (I think!?)

My initial feelings while reading the book, were that the style of the book was like a cozy, with no bad language, no gory murder details and sex that happens off screen, BUT towards the end of the book, one of the chefs makes arrangements for some kinky sex and blew that "cozy" analogy right out of the water! I really didn't think that "part" was necessary, it didn't add anything to make the story better or even seem as though it had anything to do with the story. Then, celebrity chef #2, makes arrangements to have some kinky sex herself and I was wondering if I was reading the same book. Now I have to say that kinky sex part #2, at least was tied into the murder investigation (I can't tell you how because I don't want to spoil the story), but geez, can we say gratuitous sex just a little.
(And believe me I'm not a prude in any way!) In any case... I did enjoy Beat, Slay, Love, even though I rolled my eyes at that first gratuitous kinky sex scene. I also love the cute play on words of the book title, which is a take off of Eat, Pray, Love. I read originally they were going to title the book, Beat, Flay, Love, but didn't want to be sued by Bobby Flay for slander.

If you ever watched the food channel and/or any chef throw downs you will enjoy this book! It's the perfect 3 course meal! My rating is 3 1/2 stars ( would have been 4 stars except for the eye rolling part)

P.S. If you have a Kindle, it's at a bargain price of $3.49 right now! You can find it HERE if you're interested.

First Lines Friday...



Before Kenya was Kenya, when it was millions of years old and yet still somehow new, the name belonged only to our most magnificent mountain. You could see it from our farm in Njoro, in the British East African Protectorate - hard edged at the far end of a stretching golden plain, its crown glazed with ice that never completely melted. Behind us, the Mau Forest was blue with strings of mist. Before us, the Rongai Valley sloped down and away, bordered on one side by the strange, high Menengai Crater, which the natives called the Mountain of God, and on the other by the distant Aberdare Range, rounded blue-grey hills that went smoky and purple at dusk before dissolving into the night sky.
                     …. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain


I absolutely LOVED this book! And it was her lush writing that really did it for me. This opening from the first chapter is just a sampling of what's in store for you if you decide to read Circling the Sun. What do you think? Do these first lines hook you? Yes or No?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hey, Did Ya Hear About the NEW Beatrix Potter book?!

Hey, did ya hear? Beatrix Potter is coming out with a NEW children's book! Editor Jo Hanks discovered references to the unfinished manuscript while doing some research and a trip to the Warne Archives at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London "revealed three manuscripts, two handwritten in childrens’ school notebooks and one typeset and laid out in a dummy book; one rough colour sketch of Kitty-in-Boots and a pencil rough of our favourite arch-villain, Mr Tod."

Beatrix Potter, who we all love for her creation of Peter Rabbit and the stories of Peter and his friends, will celebrate her 150th birthday with the publication of The Tale of Kitty in Boots this fall, which in 1914 in a letter to her publisher is described as, "a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life".

She only made one drawing of Kitty in Boots, so the task of illustrating the book will go to well known children's book illustrator, Quentin Blake. How exciting to have a new book by Ms. Potter! Who is still one of the all time best selling children's book authors.

Want to read an excerpt of The Tale of Kitty in Boots?! Here's link to the Penguin Books site where they have a small excerpt!

Want to learn more about Beatrix Potter, but can't get to the Victoria & Albert Museum?! Here's a link to The V & A, where Beatrix Potter is treated like royalty, and there is so much wonderful information on her and her books!


Monday, January 25, 2016

Memoir Monday... When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi...  "At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a naïve medical student "possessed," as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality."


How does a doctor become a patient gracefully? This is the story of how Dr. Paul Kalanithi dealt with changing roles from doctor to patient, and confronting what would turn out to be the end of his life. I watched a YouTube video he had done for the book, and was so effected by it. By his calmness, by his tenderness as he held his infant daughter, by his thoughts that he use to have as the doctor seeing the patient, and how he imagines his own physicians thoughts. This is on my TBR list now. And here is the video I watched...



Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Weather Outside is Frightful, so Let's Get Cozy! ... or The Sunday Salon and 3 Perfect Cozy Mysteries that will make you forget Ol' Man Winter





It's finally winter in Connecticut! Welcome to The Sunday Salon, where we are digging out from our first snowstorm of 2016 and spending a nice and COZY Sunday, inside! Which made me think of reading... which made me think of those Cozy "Murder" Mysteries that are a perfect getaway! So, get comfy, grab a cup of joe and let's get cozy! First, what is a cozy?! Well, a cozy is a story that has no graphic violence, sex or profanity and is usually a fun and light-hearted read. The murder that occurs, is usually just part of the background. The actually story is the solving of the crime, by a person who usually is NOT a detective. Remember Jessica Fletcher and Murder She Wrote?! Well, if those shows were books (and there is a book series based on them), those would be cozies. Cozies are usually a fast read too, so you can enjoy them in an afternoon. SO, in honor of our "Cozy" Sunday, I have found 3 cozies that will warm your heart and make you forget about all that white stuff outside. Of course, if you are living in Sunny Florida or any of those wonderful warm states that avoids this winter white stuff, you can enjoy these books too, but you'll possibly want to take them to the beach and enjoy them with a frozen margarita. (I would want to!)

Opening Act...
The Mutt and the Matchmaker by JB Lynn... When private investigator Tom Hanlon agrees to help out his elderly neighbor by taking her Maltese to the dog park, he has no idea he’s about to meet semi-psychic, wanna-be-matchmaker Armani Vasquez. Or that the pushy woman will insist on setting him up with quirky dog walker Jane Bly – his main suspect in a string of home burglaries -- and her high-strung, foster mutt, Calamity. Or that he’ll fall head-over-heels for one of them. Will Tom catch the thief, or will it be his heart that’s stolen? 

This is actually a novella in length. At 104 pages it's a way to get your feet wet with a cozy if you've never read one, and see if you like the genre. This has gotten great reviews from a lot of people. This book is actually a spin-off of JB Lynn's Hitwoman series. (And you'll also find that cozies generally come in series, with the same protagonist solving new crimes in new books). The BEST part of this book if you own a Kindle, is that right now it's FREE for Kindle! AND it's only .99cents for Nook! Here are the Links for the Kindle and the Nook. This looks like a fun read! and I like the idea of the semi-psychic wanna be character! I downloaded this.


Next up...
Hounding the Pavement by Judi McCoy... From Publishers Weekly: Recently divorced Ellie Engleman, ready for a fresh start, adopts a Yorkie and discovers she can telepathically communicate with dogs. Naturally, she launches a dog-walking business on Manhattan's posh Upper East Side. On the way to walk prize-winning Bichon Buddy, Ellie discovers the body of his owner, Professor Albright, murdered in his entryway. Buddy is missing and no one, save Ellie, is concerned. Sexy, annoying NYPD Det. Sam Ryder considers Ellie a prime suspect, but that doesn't stop her from searching for Buddy, hoping that finding the dog will lead her to the killer. Somehow managing to avoid every talking animal mystery cliché, McCoy fills this delightful story with humor, quirky characters and delicious hints of romance. 

Another cozy with great reviews! I love the opening of the book when Ellie discovers that she can understand what the dog is saying! And I think it's a fun premise too! From the sample of the writing, two thumbs up! On my TBR list!

And the Finale...
Low country Boil by Susan M. Boyer... PI Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. But when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated. As more folks turn up dead, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.

Another cozy with rave reviews! I like the dead friend coming back to help her, and I like the area in South Carolina that this takes place. From what I read in the prologue and the beginning of Chapter 1, I thought that Susan M. Boyer's writing was also good! AND, this is a Kindle bargain too! Right now it's just $2.99! Here's the link to the Kindle Book . I downloaded this one too!

So, are you up for trying a cozy?! There are plenty of books to choose from! A great site to look through is Cozy Mysteries Unlimited, which is beautifully designed and has cozies arranged by theme, occupation (of the main character) and lists new releases.  Danna from The Cozy Mystery List Blog has compiled an amazing list too, so take a peek at her blog.

Weekly Recap... This week was pretty busy at Chick with Books! Tuesday, I reviewed River Road by Carol Goodman, which I loved! If you are into Suspense and Mysteries, don't miss reading this one! It reminded me a bit of The Girl on the Train. And on Saturday, I reviewed Sunstone, Vol. 1 by Stjepan Sejic, a Graphic Novel that goes beyond the BDSM that is part of the love story of Ally and Lisa. Beautifully illustrated, but a wonderful portrayal of how two people fall in love (regardless of who they are falling in love with!) PLUS, I restarted posting First Lines Fridays (on Fridays), which are the first lines of some of today's hottest books, books I've put on my TBR list, or books I am reading to see if those first lines hook you or not. This weeks First Lines were from The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip. Follow the link this weeks First Lines see what you think!

So, are you a "Cozy" reader? If so, who are your favorite authors or books? Share those in the comments so we can get even cozier! And I hope I shared something that YOU can enjoy too!

Happy reading... Suzanne


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Can an Erotic BDSM Graphic Novel also be a Romantic Comedy? Sunstone, Volume 1 by Stjepa Sejic... A Review

Can an erotic BDSM graphic novel also be a romantic comedy? I guess it can, because Sunstone by Stjepa Sejic has all the obvious elements of BDSM, but it also has warmth, humor, honesty and a real love story. Though I have read erotic romances, I haven't had any BDSM in my TBR pile, but when I read Sunstone, I wasn't so much into the BDSM as I was into the humanity of the characters. Stjepa Sejic was able to actually have me feel the butterflies Lisa and Ally were starting to feel for one another. A love story that goes beyond whether they are two women and digs deeper and makes us think about why we feel the way we do about someone. How we start to fall in love. What it means to care and trust someone.

The Gist of the Story... Ally and Lisa are two "over 21" women, who met at an online chat "group". After a few months of "chatting, webcams and yes, virtual sex", Lisa asks Ally if she'd like to actually meet. (You find all this out, along with some history of the women growing up with a few pages of backstory). It is at this point the story really starts, and we get to experience their pre-first date jitters. When Lisa finally knocks on Ally's front door, the fun begins. And not just the "sex", which is alluded to more than actually shown. You'll see these two beautiful women in sexy outfits (what man could resist drawing that?), and in some suggestive poses, but then the bedroom door closes and they are given some privacy. The "fun" of the story really is Ally and Lisa getting to know each other and the things they are thinking and "not saying". Outside the bedroom they are just two girlfriends navigating life. There is one other major character at this point in time and that's Ally's friend (ex-boyfriend kinda), Alan, who we meet when he pops in after date #2.

Reading Sunstone Volume 1, I genuinely liked Lisa and Ally. Their dialogue is great, and the story has substance. For me the BDSM took a backseat to Ally & Lisa's budding friendship and romance.  Good story,well developed characters, absolutely beautiful artwork and 5 stars from me. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

P.S. In the first volume, after the story, author Stjepa Sejic shares how Sunstone came about. That in itself is a great story! 

Friday, January 22, 2016

First Lines Friday... Keep on Reading?



"When I turned thirty-three, I decided it was time for a big change in my life. It was time to become a witch.
    I have to admit that I was not sure if this would be a good idea.
    My name is Ai Lian, “love lotus” in Chinese, or Eileen Chen in English. Although I was Western-educated and lived in the modern era, I believed somewhere inside me there lived a witch, at least in spirit. I grew up in a family who believed in anything metaphysical, however implausible."
                                                                     ... The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip



 I enjoy Mingmei's writing, and I like the opening of The Witch's Market. What do you think? Would you keep reading after just these opening words?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

First Line Fridays... or Do Those Lines Grab Us Hook, Line and Sinker or is it just a Sinker?

Back near the beginning of my blog, I use to enjoy sharing the first lines of a book that I had started reading or had picked up or intrigued me. I called it First Lines... and I posted it on Fridays (First Lines Friday). I always read a bit of a book before I buy it, even if someone recommended it or I've read a review and the story seems like something I would enjoy. The writing... that's what ultimately makes the decision for me whether I read a book or not. I either flip the book open to a random page and sample the writing that way or start with those first opening lines (Some say that those first lines can make or break a book). So, I thought I'd bring back First Lines Friday, design a cute little graphic to go with it (my dear husband, Jim, helped make that happen) and start sharing those first lines again to see if they hook us or not... Stop by this Friday for the first reincarnation of First Lines Friday and share what you think!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

River Road by Carol Goodman... A Review

On a cold winter's night, you're driving home from a party, upset and with a few glasses of wine in you. All of a sudden, out of nowhere comes a deer! You can't avoid it, you hit it. You get out of the car, to look at the damage to your car and the deer.. But no deer. What happened to the deer? Was it a deer? Must have run off...

So begins the story of River Road by Carol Goodman and Nan, a creative writing teacher at the state college, a borderline alcoholic, and a grieving mother who lost her 4 year old daughter in a hit and run accident years ago.

Nan just learned at the faculty Christmas party that her tenure was denied and drives home upset and hurt. When she rounds the corner on River Road, the same spot her daughter was killed, a deer comes out of nowhere and she hits it. Or does she?!

The morning after she's waken by a policeman at her door, questioning her about the damage to her car. It just so happens that one of her students was killed in a hit and run last night, in the same spot Nan "claims" she hit the deer... What really happened on River Road that night? Nan isn't quite sure herself, as she begins to try and piece things together. Slowly it is revealed that everyone is harboring secrets that could make them a suspect, but there is ultimately only one guilty of murder...

I LOVED this book! It just grabbed me from the start and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time reading. In fact, I read it in just a few days because I couldn't put it down. The writing was wonderful and the plot of the story was so well thought out from start to finish. The characters were well written too. A genuinely great read, with lots of suspense and twists & turns that will have you guessing in all the wrong places!

Definitely a 5 star read! Though the books are different, the beginning of River Road reminded me of The Girl on The Train, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. So, if you're a Mystery/Suspense reader River Road should be on your TBR list! And today you can find it in your local bookstore, because today is its' release date!

I would like to thank Touchstone and Simon & Schuster for sending along a copy of River Road for my reading pleasure and honest review!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mailbox Monday


In My Mailbox... I've received some wonderful books last week! And I decided I would join in on the fun sharing them with you and the other bloggers participating in Mailbox Monday!


Mailbox Monday is a weekly event for bloggers to share what books arrived in their mailboxes. Mailbox Monday was originally created by Marcia of To Be Continued and is now hosted by Vicki, Serena and Leslie at Mailbox Monday's own blog.

3 Books came in the mail and more for my eReader, which is filled to capacity now! First, I am so excited about receiving Mingmei Yip's latest book, The Witch's Market. She is an amazing writer, who mixes her knowledge of Chinese folklore with her enthralling storytelling. I have enjoyed every one of her books. They all have pulled me in completely with their wonderful plots. Thank you, Mingmei for sending it along! I'm also interested to read Jill McCroskey Coupe's first novel, true stories at the smoky view. And, Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry looks like it's going to be a fun read, with a bit of that tongue in cheek humor that I enjoy from time to time! Then the eGalley's filling my eReader are filling the internet with a lot of buzz, the new books by Chris Cleave and Chris Bohjalian have been highly anticipated and both look like they will not disappoint us. Mermaid Moon by Colleen Cable and Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom both had a lot of great press. And Here are the blurbs of those books and links to their full descriptions...

The Books:

The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip
a beautifully written novel of self-discovery and intrigue. Chinese-American assistant professor Eileen Chen specializes in folk religion at her San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition. Yet privately, the subject intrigues her.

true stories at the smoky view by Jill McCroskey Coupe
After attending the funeral of her estranged friend Skip in Knoxville, Tennessee, Vrai (short for Vraiment), a forty-something art history librarian with sons of her own, rescues ten-year-old Jonathan, who has been abandoned with no shoes in the funeral home parking lot. The Blizzard of 1993 strands this unlikely duo at the Smoky View Motel, where, motivated in part by the unsolved murders of Jonathan s parents, they begin to uncover the truth about Skip s death.

Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry
A whip-smart and funny novel told by a former Wall Street insider who reveals what it’s like for a working woman to balance love, ambition, and family in a world of glamorous excess, outrageous risk-taking, and jaw-dropping sexism.

eGalley's:

Mermaid Moon by Colleen Cable
Mallory's mother died fifteen years ago. But her father's last words on the phone were     unmistakable: “Find . . . mother.”

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
A spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
The spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong: two men lie dead in a suburban living room, two women are on the run from police, and a marriage is ripping apart at the seams.

Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom
The continued story (from The Kitchen House) of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, whose deadly secret compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

Hope you found something interesting here! I'll be reading and reviewing these books soon, so stop back to see what I thought. In the meantime, check out what other bloggers have received in their mailboxes at the Mailbox Monday blog!




Memoir Monday... Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson


In FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson... Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best. According to Jenny: "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos." FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it's about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn't need a bit more of that?

I tried to resist this book. The cover image just rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. And again, I thought, "Here's another celebrity tell all book", because she already published one book that was suppose to be a memoir, how much more can there be? But then I actually took a peek at it, and read some of it and now I HAVE to read it! The writing was so good! And she has this wry sense of humor that I like. And I guess it all comes back to "don't judge a book by its' cover". But now I can appreciate the cover. And Jenny Lawson is a celebrity because she has opened up about something very personal and how she deals with it, and in doing so she has helped so many people realize they are not alone... And that I can definitely appreciate. On my TBR list now!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald... Blog Tour and Review!



Welcome to Broken Wheel, a whisper of a town, almost beyond repair. But to a girl named Sara, who lives practically on the other side of the world (ok, maybe just across the Atlantic), Broken Wheel is her adventure of a lifetime!

Amy lives in Broken Wheel, Iowa, a sleepy little rural town that has seen better days. Sara lives in Sweden, would rather read a book than participate in life and works in a bookstore, or did, until the bookstore closed. But because of Amy and Sara's shared love of books and reading, they become pen pals, and eventually Amy invites Sara for a visit...

So, Sara crosses the Atlantic, thousands of miles away from home, and arrives in Iowa, waiting for Amy to pick her up from the next town over... and waits... and waits... only to find out that Amy checked out of Broken Wheel...permanently!  And not only did Sara miss Amy, but she missed her funeral as well! Oh, what's a girl to do?! Not to worry, the town takes Sara in, kind of adopts her and so begins, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.

Quirky characters, a bit of romance, and a good story make this a fun read! After a while, it just feels like you're a part of the story too! Katarina Bivald is a wonderful writer, and gives life to her characters and Broken Wheel. For all of us book lovers, Broken Wheel is a great place to visit, especially since Sara decides to pay back the kindness of the town, by sharing her love of reading by opening a bookstore, where there's "something for everyone"!

I really enjoyed the premise of "the town" adopting Sara. It really showcased what small town America is all about. And the bookstore was wonderful because as a reader it was fun to see what books Sara would recommend to people, and how some of the choices were a bit "controversial". But I think my favorite parts of the book were the letters between Amy and Sara. They really gave me insight into the characters and the town. And, the letters were sprinkled throughout the book to add a bit of background depending on what was going on in the story.

If you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and/or 84, Charing Cross Road, you will definitely enjoy The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, which has the same kind of charm and is partly written in that wonderful epistolary style. Charming, heartwarming and a book lovers kind of read. Put this on your TBR list now!  I thoroughly enjoyed it! 4 stars from me. And not only will you enjoy it, but this has all the qualities of a great book club selection! It's the January Indie Next Pick! AND, this coming Tuesday, January 19th, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend will be released! I want to thank the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, for the eGalley for my reading pleasure and in exchange for my honest review!

Chick with Books is hosting the official blog tour today! And I've got a link from Sourcebooks Landmark for a giveaway they are running! They are giving away copies of this book to 3 lucky winners! Here is The Link. They will be contacting the winners directly. Good luck!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haru... A Review

"And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters."

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, is the bittersweet love story of Addie and Louis, who much to the chagrin of their children and certain gossips of their small community of Holt, Colorado, decide to fill their empty days and lonely nights with the company of each other.

Addie and Louis, both in their 70's, have lived most of their lives in the small community of Holt, Colorado. They've raised children, fulfilled dutiful marriages, and endured the deaths of their spouses.  They knew each other from afar, and had known the others' spouse. But why does life have to come to a stand still now? Is it just because that's what is expected of them? One day Addie has an idea... and Louis gives it a try... why not spend our nights together? She misses sleeping with someone, and NOT for sex. Just the comfort of someone close during the loneliness hours of the day. She misses talking while going to sleep. She misses companionship. BUT, out of jealously, suspicion and probably fear, the people around them see things a little different. So, while Louis walks over to Addie's with his paper bag filled with his pajamas and toothbrush, tongues begin to wag...

This story was perfect. At a sparse 179 pages, there was no wasting of words, just the perfect amount to bring a well of emotions off the page. I was rooting for them! I wanted them to find the happiness that had eluded them all their lives! I wanted them to laugh at convention in the face. Oh, how I hated Addie's son! How cruel he was without thinking of her happiness! How both Addie and Louis deal with acceptance, love, affection, family and just being old made this a wonderful read. Don't miss this one! 5 stars from me!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery... A Review

I am fascinated! I also had no idea about how an Octopus could interact with a human. This is a wonderful book on Sy Montgomery's exploration (literally) of the deep blue sea, The New England Aquarium, and of course the Octopuses she meets along the way. (yes, it's Octopuses!)

Sy Montgomery has a wonderful writing style that immerses you into the story and allows you to get to know these amazing creatures without getting your arms wet. After the first few chapters I was totally absorbed, and learning so much. I wish I could adopt one of these beautiful creatures, but I could never have a large enough aquarium. I CAN visit them at the New England Aquarium in Boston! Or any aquarium that has a octopus or two and I can appreciate them so much more now.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, (Do they have souls? I think they do after reading this book!) is a book that will bring you closer to the world we live in, and teach you a thing or two about Octopuses! It's very readable, and enjoyable. It's also an interesting look behind the scenes at a large Aquarium, and how these "animals" are handled and truly loved.

4 tentacles for this one!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Memoir Monday... Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine,” writes Atul Gawande, a surgeon (at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston) and a writer (at the New Yorker). “We think. . .[it] is to ensure health and survival. But really. . .it is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.” 

As I get older, I think sometimes about all those aches and pains that happen when I least expect it. You know the kind that happen when you bend over and pick up a pencil and you feel something. How can you "feel something" just bending over and picking up a pencil?! And since having "the accident" that left me unable to walk for almost 2 years, and still not being able to walk without pain now, I think about quality of life. Medicine cannot make everything better all the time. When we approach the final landing, do we want to fight to the bitter end, or do we want to enjoy the landing? Hopefully I have a long way to go before my approach, but when I saw this book and read a little, I thought it would be great insight into a world we only know of from across the room. Here's what the publishers blurb has to say about Being Mortal by Atul Gawande:

In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Sunday Salon... New Year, New You!

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's a new year, do you ever think about change? I'm not talking about resolutions, I'm talking about taking a deep breathe and feeling like changing a habit or introducing something different into your life. Find yourself a comfy chair, pour yourself a cup of joe and let's talk about 3 books designed to help you make a positive change...

Sometimes making a change isn't easy to do on your own. That's why we make and break resolutions. But what about books that are meant to inspire us to make a change in our lives? Do they work better than a New Years' Resolution? Here are three books (Okay, 4 books) that have gotten a lot of buzz lately...

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo... Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly declutter your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Whereas most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, the KonMari Method's category-by-category, all-at-once prescription leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have been repeat customers (and she still has a three-month waiting list of new customers!). With detailed guidance for every type of item in the household, this quirky little manual from Japan's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help readers clear their clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home--and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

This was the "It" book of 2104! Everyone was cleaning up their act. And it was one of those cute size gift books too, and comes in at a slim 224 pages. Have you read it? I actually bought it and it's in my TBR pile. Of course, if I had read it, would I have a TBR pile anymore? It's time for me to read this little book and put order in my "piles". Lots of praise for this book and Marie Kondo has just released a companion book to this called, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, which is an 'in-depth, illustrated manual on how to declutter and organize specific items throughout the house, from kitchen and bathroom items to work-related papers and hobby collections." This new book, released January 5th, has had mixed reviews. I'm saving my judgement until I finish the first book and look for this second book to keep me going. 

52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal... Whether as New Year’s resolutions, birthday wishes, or daily promises, most everyone vows at some point to make a major life change. But change is easier said than done, especially when it comes to better managing our wellness amidst the chaos of everyday living. Fortunately, wellness coach and award-winning writer Brett Blumenthal has devised a way to inspire and motivate her readers to live healthier and make positive changes in their lives. Although Blumenthal’s method is not a quick fix, it is a surprisingly simple one: make one small change per week, for fifty-two weeks, and at the end of a year, you’ll be happier and healthier. After all, it is the small changes that are the most realistic, instead of trying to overhaul your lifestyle all at once

This was Brett's first book dealing with "52 small changes", and wraps itself around the concept that small changes taken over time is more successful than trying to make a change all at once. She encourages you to make positive changes for your total well being, such as drink more water, get more sleep, laugh, take your vitamins, etc. AND, there are so many great reviews for this book too! Want to make some positive changes in your life? Why not give Brett's book a try! And right now, it's at a bargain Kindle price of $3.99! Here is THE LINK .

52 Small Changes for the Mind: Improve Memory * Minimize Stress * Increase Productivity * Boost Happiness by Brett Blumenthal... Small changes work. In this practical book, wellness expert Brett Blumenthal reveals how to hone in on the mind as the foundation of overall health and well-being. She presents one small, achievable change every week—from developing music appreciation to eating brain-boosting foods, practicing mono-tasking, incorporating play, and more. The accumulation of these lifestyle changes ultimately leads to improved memory, less stress, increased productivity, and sustained happiness. Backed by research from leading experts and full of helpful charts and worksheets, 52 Small Changes for the Mind provides a road map to a better life—and proves that the journey can be as rewarding as the destination.

This is Brett's newest book and focuses in on mindfulness. 52 positive changes we can do with our minds to help us become happier. This would involve reducing stress, improving our memories and becoming more productive. Though her other book was a hit, she thought zeroing in on these things could be beneficial. Mindfulness is all the rage these days, and I think this book may be a way for the author to hop aboard, but if it helps someone to have a happier life, I am all for it. I'm picking up the first book at the bargain Kindle price and checking out this book at the library first.

You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh... This moment is the gateway to enlightenment. It is the only moment we have to be joyful, mindful, and awake. The key is to be there for yourself—to learn to be fully present in your life. This, Thich Nhat Hanh explains, is the heart of Buddhist practice.
In this introduction to the practice of presence, the beloved Buddhist teacher provides indispensable insight on the essentials of Buddhist thought and offers a range of simple, everyday practices for cultivating mindfulness. These teachings empower us to witness the wonder of life and transform our suffering, both within us and around us, into compassion, tenderness, and peace—not in some long and hard struggle, but in this very moment. As Thich Nhat Hanh declares, “the energy of mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha, and it can be produced by anybody.” It’s as simple as breathing in and breathing out.

How often do we race around not really paying attention to what's going on around us? Have you ever driven to work and not remember the drive? Thich Nhat Hanh is a "Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh is an internationally known author, poet, scholar, and peace activist, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967" and has written quite a few books inspired by his practice of Buddhism. This is a slim book of only 163 pages, but packs a powerful punch and is inspiring. Maybe this could be the book that helps start your new year? This one is on my shelf.

Are you inspired? Going to make any changes? Is reading about how to make those changes more effective for you then going it on your own? I think that these books are the type that can help us make positive changes in our lives. I'm almost over New Years resolutions of the non-reading kind. These books inspire to make changes whether it's January 1st or October 9th. Happy New Year, New You!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

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